Present: WAP Hits the Street
The year 2000 will be viewed as the birth of the Wireless Internet. Some of the largest compa-
nies on the planet are the telecommunications operators (such as NTT, AT&T, Verizon, British
Telecom, and Deutsche Telekom) and they are eagerly looking to generate new revenue
streams to offset the leveling of revenues from voice communications.
As soon as WAP presented itself and the phones hit the market, massive marketing campaigns
ensued. The end result was an expectation in users' minds that they would somehow pick up a
phone and access Web content much as they were used to doing from their desktop computers.
Given the tiny screens and poor data input capabilities of mobile phones, it was only natural
that this expectation quickly fell on its face! The inevitable response to the hype heaped upon
WAP was a backlash from the technology media, the stock market, and anyone who felt like
Lessons Learned from the WAP Backlash
For software developers, one lesson learned from WAP's initial foray into the market
is to concentrate on delivering valuable information quickly to your end user—be
that a stock quote, a weather report, or an address-book lookup. Snippets of infor-
mation are perfectly fine for the mobile user; in fact, that is all that most mobile
users want. In situations where you believe that more information might be neces-
sary, include an extra “More Information” link instead of trying to force-feed it all
onto a tiny screen.
Another limitation to always keep in mind is the difficulty of data input, particularly
on a mobile phone's keypad. When possible, always pre-populate text fields with
“default” possibilities. If you will be developing a wireless information portal, build a
standard Web front end that enables users to preset their preferences from the desk-
top (such as their ZIP code for weather retrieval and movie times, their mailing
address, favorite stock ticker symbols, and so on). Then, after logging in to your por-
tal, their selections will be readily available without forcing users to repeatedly enter
the same information daily.
The Future: WAP 1.2 and Beyond
Although it hasn't achieved the original lofty projections, WAP has seen excellent market pen-
etration and usage, particularly in Europe. It hasn't had the success of its messaging cousin, the
Short Message Service (SMS), which has taken Europe by storm, but WAP is still a popular
wireless data service on that continent. (SMS is a feature of PCS phones that enables users to
receive and sometimes transmit short text messages using their wireless phone.)